Seth Udinski, FISM News
Over the past few months, FISM News has covered the shocking events surrounding GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Canada, home of Pastor James Coates. To recap, Coates was arrested and jailed in February for continuing to hold in-person worship services despite COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. He was released after 35 days in March and resumed preaching at the church before a full congregation during Holy Week. Last week, health officials and local law enforcement barricaded the church’s entrance and built a fence around the property, which did not succeed in preventing GraceLife from still gathering, even outdoors. However, it did cause public outrage in an ever-growing tension between religious freedom and COVID-19 restrictions.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the fence surrounding the church to voice their frustration at the Canadian legal system’s handling of the situation. Some sources say as many as 1,000 protesters were present. The protest was, unlike many of the racial riots breaking out in major cities in the past year, truly a “mostly peaceful” affair.
The moment of highest tension came when several zealous protesters began pulling down sections of the fence surrounding the church. Many in the larger crowd rebuked the ones destroying the fence as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, already stationed at the church, approached the fence and rebuilt it with no resistance. There were also unconfirmed reports of racial slurs used at various times.
GraceLife Church released a statement Sunday evening affirming that neither the church nor Pastor Coates had any part in organizing the protest. The statement read,
Grace Life Church congregants were not at the protest that occurred on Sunday, April 11, 2021 near the Church’s facility. Grace Life Church recognizes the place for peaceful protest within the context of a democracy. Grace Life Church has no control of our Church or grounds at this time. The Church grounds are fully under the responsibility and control of the RCMP and Alberta Health Services. The closing of the Grace Life facility has understandably resulted in significant public outrage….Albertans have a constitutional right to assemble, associate, and worship….It is time to end these unscientific, unjustified and arbitrary lockdown measures.